It is always interesting to read the finished work of a writer whom you met while he was still doing his research, particularly when his book addresses one of the most controversial sociocultural subjects in the UK today – Muslims in Britain. James Fergusson’s Al-Britannia, My Country is a journey and an inquiry into the rapidly changing face of British society, taking in headscarves, sharia councils, mosques, maulanas and madrasas, Sadiq Khan’s election as mayor of London and the jihadist threat posed by ISIS. These are not just features of multicultural Britain but also some of the most contested realities of our society today. His attempt to understand these aspects takes him to northern cities, such as Oldham, Bradford and Dewsbury, and to Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. His encounters with hundreds of Muslims are pithily related, offering sometimes amusing and sometimes disturbing snippets of the huge diversity of Muslim opinion on all matters of faith and culture.
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'The poem leads us, but no person takes us by the hand. It is not like Virgil or Homer, whose poems start with invocations to a muse.'
Michael Schmidt on the Epic of Gilgamesh.